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How to be a professional (mom)

Over a decade ago I made the transition from high school teacher to full-time mom. Gone were the days of toting my European leather satchel, wearing high heels, and attending staff meetings. Instead, my hours were filled with baby spit up, a bigger laundry pile, and endless “free” time.

Six kids later, I find myself with a home business, a homeschool, a much bigger laundry pile, and less “free” time. I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the road of motherhood.

I would never turn back from this path I chose so long ago. But I’ve found, even now, that there’s common ground between the old days and my current ones.

In fact, I’m discovering ways to feel more like a pro in my primary — and best — of professions.

Dress for success.

While I could stay in my jammies all day long, it doesn’t feel productive, nor does it motivate me to tackle that laundry pile, take the kids to the park, or wrestle with a lengthy to-do list. Wearing comfortable, but nice clothes helps me feel “put together” and helps me act that way, too.

Create a routine.

A reliable rhythm to the day helps my kids know what to expect and offers them a sense of security. It also helps me make the most of the minutes we have together. Creating a household notebook and consulting a Daily Docket can help us walk through the day with grace.

Weekly trips to the library, the park, and pottery class get us out and about — something necessary for families that are home-based. Doing regular chores helps keep us from becoming entrenched in said home base. And fun little traditions like Pizza Night or Pancake Saturday remind us to enjoy the good life, and one another.

Having a plan for after-work or after-school hours helps the days distinguish themselves from each other, and can prevent us all from feeling postal.

Take a break.

Motherhood is a 24/7 job. But that doesn’t mean you abandon a sense of self or occasional “me” time. Plan a night or day off. Schedule a coffee break or regular tea time in your day. Make the mornings quiet — even if you have to wake up an hour early to find the silence.

Enjoy time around the water cooler.

Find other moms to spend time with, with or without kids. A quick email exchange, a sharing of prayer requests, a weekly moms group meeting, or an early morning phone call with a friend can do wonders for your disposition and motivate you to take on the day. You are not alone in the trenches; remember that.

Remember your Number One clients.

Hobbies, business, community involvement, even the television, can distract us from our families. But they are our first and best clients. Without our children, we’d be out of jobs – and heart. Though the laundry piles up, though the dog barks, and the homework mysteriously loses itself, let’s remember the things that matter: the hug, the kiss, the cuddle, the story read at bedtime, the favorite meal prepared, the listening ear.

The bonus you receive from that account will beat all others.

Enjoy your job security.

You are irreplaceable. No one can replace you as the mother of your children. Others can fold the laundry or clean the tub, but only you can be, well, you. Remember that you are handpicked by God to mother your children.

No one can take your place.

What’s your favorite part of your role as mom?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Amy

    I can relate to this post in so many ways! I am a stay at home mom to three (ages 5,3, and 1). I was a youth pastor for four years and a manager in a print shop for one year before I became a stay at home mom. Over the past few years I have learned to see cooking, household chores as an art versus a chore. I see the home as my huge office and my kids as my #1 clients. I have more hobbies than ever before even with my limited time. Even though I have bad days and bad weeks, I think our jobs as moms are a blast. We need to find our own “mom style” and take pride in what we do.

  2. Stephanie

    Hello! I have to say thank you, I appreciate your post as I am starting off my mothering adventure in similar straits that you have. Only a year ago I stopped teaching high school to stay home with my first one, (I tried to work the first year and quickly realized my mistake, but as you are probably aware, it is difficult to back out mid year on a teaching contract without burning all bridges). Now I am still struggling on how to go from dealing with a sassy, moody teenager to handling a precocious, needy toddler. Most days I think I would do better with the teenager, but then I remember I had way more practice. I’m still trying to figure out this business of being a mom, and I appreciate your advice, especially the last part that says I’m needed. It is hard to remember this at the beginning of most days, much less the end of them.

    • FishMama

      You are desperately needed. Sooooo many of my students during my last year of teaching high school said that they wished their moms had been home with them. It was striking. Very few of the students raised their eyebrows at my quitting, though most of them had moms who worked outside the home.

  3. Erica Cosminsky

    I love this post. I’m even printing it out to hang on my pin board behind my desk.

    I do differ from you in one way for sure. I intentionally buy really nice pajamas so I don’t feel like such a slacker working in them. I might be the only person in the world who when buying pajamas thinks “Hm, would my UPS man think I’m a slob for wearing these all day?” 😀

    Off to check out your Good Cheap Eats site. I love cooking so I’m excited to have a new resource.

    • FishMama

      I like the idea of nice pajamas! Great thinking.

    • Diane

      Love the idea of buying nicer pajamas that transition into daytime wear. Plus, it must feel good to sleep in something nicer than old maternity tee shirts and sweatpants (my current sleepwear choice)!

  4. Rizzi@Re Mentor

    Great post! I can totally relate with your post.
    “No one can take your place.”
    And thank you for reminding me that I am irreplaceable in my child’s heart! 🙂

  5. Stephanie @ The Brunette Foodie

    What a darling post! I’m a SAHM to a little boy {1 yr old}, and I find that if I live each day intentionally we have a great time. I try hard to find things for us to do together. It makes it pretty easy when we live across the street from a national park and a city park with a water play area.

    I so agree with the dressing. On days when I can’t manage to get out of pajama pants it seems we are a little more high strung than usual. On days when I put on real clothes things seem to be more fun and laid back.

  6. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Love the way you put things! (“Enjoy time around the water cooler.” Clever!)

    Thanks, Jessica!

  7. Rachel @ The Travel Pen

    Thank you for this post. It was encouraging to read.

    One of my favorite parts of my role as mom (my baby is only 7-months old) is that sweet moment after my baby wakes from slumber. I love going in to pick her up and just cuddle her for a few moments.

    I also love becoming a family. It was great when it was just me and my husband, but – wow – I had no idea the precious sense of togetherness that having a baby would bring. My impression of having babies was that it was tiring and difficult. No one told me that it would be way more enjoyable than tiring. My husband and I entered parenthood on faith, believing that children are a blessing and not a burden. And come find out – they ARE a blessing!

    • FishMama

      Isn’t that wonderful? Enjoy your little one. It goes fast! My first is 14 and it seems like just yesterday…. you know the story. 😉

  8. Courtney

    Excellent advice! I enjoyed an early morning phone call with a friend this morning, comparing notes on 2 year olds, and I already feel better about the day ahead.

  9. Heather Allard


    Loved this post – I need to work a bit more on creating a routine and making more “me” time. 🙂

    Thank you!

  10. Abbie

    Great advice! I’m in my sixth year as a mom, my four kids are my full-time (and over-time and all the time) job!

    Getting dressed makes SUCH a difference in my days – I’ve been loving cool, comfy cotton skirts this summer. And bracelets and necklaces. Even if I’m not going anywhere. Even if I don’t get a shower!

    The routine is something we are working on – but I know that will come too as my youngest is only two months old. 🙂

  11. Raki @ outsidetheboxmom

    I spend most of my day at my day job, so when I get home it’s dinner, laundry, or some other must do. It’s seems to never end, but the part I enjoy most are the bedtime stories, snuggles, and kisses. That makes it all worth out.

  12. Amy @ MomsToolbox

    Great tips and reminders.
    Uh-oh. Now I’d better go get out of my jammies and get dressed! 🙂

    • FishMama

      Well, I have to confess…. sometimes I just go to bed in my clothes! LOL. Lounge pants and a tshirt to double duty. 🙂

  13. Nanci

    Thank you for your words of wisdom!

  14. sarah

    Jessica, this is a great post. I love that you classify mommyhood as a profession – which it is.

    Certainly I tried the let the day unfold approach and it didn’t work. The best times have been when there is some routine and some plan (even if we stray from it) to use as a guide.

    On routine, when naptime was there, I savored it as my quiet time. When naps went the way of diapers, I still kept a mandatory quiet time after lunch to be used for solo, quiet activities.

    Other essential: Exercise and activity – whether it was getting a bike ride in when Dad got home or putting on dance tunes.

    And now, like you, even though I’m working at home with a home biz in tow, I have to always remind myself my most important clients are my children and husband. A great way to frame it – nowhere else can you make such a difference!

    • FishMama

      Exercise is a great point! I never developed good exercise habits as a child or teen — and old age is catching up on me. I’m learning now, and hopefully, giving my kids a better foundation in that area.

  15. Shannon

    Oh, thank you for the wonderful and encouraging words. Such a gift to be part of a community of moms who are “in the trenches” together! Today feels like “one of those days” to me, for some reason, so I really am thankful for the good words shared!

  16. Kim

    Beautiful. My children are adults, so may I just give a word of encouragement to the moms with little children. Motherhood is a 24/7 job and it doesn’t end after 18 or 21 years. Being there for adult children, can be just as important in different ways.

    May you be blessed in each season.

    • FishMama

      Thanks for bringing that up. I’m finding that true with my teenager.

  17. Angie B

    Great post. One thought about the routines though. Most of the families we know have their evenings so planned out with activities, church and other responsibilities that an impromptu get together is impossible. A lot of kids that come over to our house don’t know how to entertain themselves or just play anymore. There’s something to be said for allowing your kids the chance to be bored so they can tune into their own creative juices.

    • The Gentle Mom

      I agree that schedules need to be relaxed, especially with little ones. I try (TRY!) to keep mealtimes, nap time, and bedtime consistent, and the rest just sort of falls into place.

      • FishMama

        Great points! Our schedule is pretty wide open, but I can see how those things can definitely be present in other families.

  18. Tricia at Mom is the Only Girl

    How funny this was today’s post. I’ve been grappling with a few similar issues and have posted on my blog about it recently, too. Mom is the Only Girl

  19. Heather Novak

    Great ideas…I love the comment about NICER PJs!!!! LOL. I am going to try more structure, not a time line for the day (God forbid!) but a task line…this and then that and this. We shall see. Thanks for the ideas & encouragement.

  20. Charity Long

    I totally feel you on the “dress for success” thing. Some days I think it would serve me better to skip the time it takes for a shower and some make up, but no. It never does. Those days inevitably end in disaster! And getting much less done.

  21. Christin

    Yes, a wholly agree. In addition to getting dressed, I wear shoes. It really gets me moving and keeps me motivated rather than relaxed. When I take my shoes off in the evening, my body knows it’s time to relax–I have to have the “stopping point” each day so I can refresh for the next day.

  22. Charity Long

    Oh! And one more thing that may make me sound like a shallow dork…I find I am nicer and more agreeable with my girls when they are dressed for the day, as well. Out of their pajamas, and Nolie’s crazy curls semi-tamed, and the day just feels better.

    • FishMama

      Having been a mom of four boys before I had my two girls, I totally get you. I’m having to discipline myself to do their hair each day now that it’s so long. I didn’t have to do that with boys. I don’t think it’s shallow to want your kids to be well-groomed. I think it shows care.

  23. Diane

    It’s a great idea to remind myself that I was handpicked by God to mother my children. Especially good to remember in those hectic moments when it’s easier to cry out “why me?!” than “Thank you for these beautiful blessings!”

  24. Naomi

    “You are irreplaceable. No one can replace you as the mother of your children. Others can fold the laundry or clean the tub, but only you can be, well, you.” I needed to hear that! Thanks for all the great advice and encouragement and the kick in the pants! I needed that too…

  25. Sharon W

    My favorite part of being a Mom is watching my daughter learn new things. I love to teach people things, and with a 17 mo old, there is plenty to teach! I love the idea that our kiddos are our #1 client and that without them we’d be jobless. And that we are irreplaceable. And handpicked by God. So many people have told me to cherish this time with my daughter as it goes by so fast. I’m not always very good at following that advice, but your post reminded me of that. So thank you!

  26. Kim Foster, MD

    I love the idea of “going pro” as a mother. Treating it like a career (and a calling!) instead of something just to muddle through. My fave tips of yours: Create a Routine, and create fun little traditions (my 6 yr old loves our “movie nights” and “2-waffle Saturdays!”). And the recommendation to Take a Break. So crucial to have GUILT FREE “me time”! Moms need to take care of themselves, too, so we can be better moms.

    The best analogy I can come up with is this: you know how, on airplanes, you’re supposed to put on your own oxygen mask in an emergency, before helping others? ‘Cause if you pass out, you’re not going to be of use to anybody?

    Yeah, taking care of yourself as a mother is kinda like that.

  27. FishMama

    I recently heard that analogy. It’s a good one.

  28. Jenni

    I really enjoyed this post! I am a new SAHM and I’m loving it. Taking the time to shower and dress is something that has definitely helped me feel much better. I seem to get more accomplished. It’s kinda crazy! 🙂

  29. Reagan @ Recipesmademyway

    Wow, I desperately needed to read this today. I just had my second baby, so right now I have a 22 month old girl and a 3 1/2 week old boy. Today was one of those crazy days. I put my daughter down for a nap and 30 minutes later my son woke up and had soaked through his diaper, I was trying to clean all of that up after cleaning him up and he was screaming and woke my daughter up, I fed my baby and got my daughter out of her crib … all of that interrupted me folding 4 loads of laundry that has been sitting in a pile for almost a week… so of coarse half of it got unfolded by my toddler and my baby was screaming while I tried to pick it all up. I broke down… I just feel like I can either be a mom or a housekeeper… but not both! It is so hard to feel like anything I do matters. I’m sure I’ll get a routine down once my baby is not so tiny and hopefully find some friends so I don’t go insane but I am glad that I read this, I really needed a reminder that my children matter most and even though my hubby isn’t too happy with the mess… it really can wait 🙂 And even though my babies are very demanding and can’t show me their appreciation the cuddles and kisses make it all worth it in the end.

    • Betsy

      I just read your comment and my heart went out to you. My kids are also just 2 years apart, and I remember those days! Hang in there! Things will get better. Blessings and grace to you.

    • Katy

      Hang in there! You can do it. It’s very exhausting and hard to get a good routine, because a baby’s schedule changes every couple of months. I promise it will get easier. I still have very young children 6,4, and 2 and this summer is easier than last summer.

    • FishMama

      Oh, I feel ya. I have had days and weeks like that. Hang in there. It does get easier — and you’ll be able to laugh about it some day.

      • Julie

        Mine were 22 months apart as well. Now the little one is two. There are still challenges with them being so close together but are getting to the point of being friends and helping each other. It does get easier. Remember to take your time to rest and especially with this age ALWAYS accept help even if it means you tell someone what you really need help with is folding clothes. 🙂

  30. Betsy

    Your headline totally caught my attention, and I loved this post. Totally agree. After 9 years home schooling, I figure I ought to be a “professional home schooler” by now! I especially liked your points about dressing for success and routine. I always think about how I want my kids to remember me, so I dress accordingly.

  31. Jessica

    watching my son grow up into the person he was intended to be!

  32. Suzanne

    Thank-you, Jessica, for your timely post. I recently became a SAHM again after a lay-off. I’d been working for almost 10 years. My boys are 13 and 8. I have also decided to homeschool my 8yo because of some deficiencies in the school system and a learning disability.
    I have found my new role very difficult. My friends all work outside of the home. It is nice to be reminded that I was chosen to be the mom to my boys, and that I am irreplaceable.

  33. Hannah Cook

    what a blessing this post was this morning. I truly needed those reminders especially the last one. No one can replace me. Thanks:)

  34. Danica

    Oh how I can relate! I am a homeschooling mom who also has a home business ( I sometimes struggle with two kiddos, so I am in awe of you having six! 😉 I just wanted to say thank you for the reminder to take a break sometimes. I struggle with that. A lot.

  35. Tabitha (Meet Penny)

    Thanks for stepping on my toes, Jessica! I wonder if I will ever find a balance… I must keep trying though. The rewards are too excellent to let slip.

  36. mothering spirit

    A week ago I blogged about the question of whether parenting can be considered a profession:
    I like the perspective you’ve taken here on how mothering can be lived out as a profession, although I’m still musing the difference between “profession” and “vocation” and wondering which one most fully captures the essence of this work.

  37. Sarah M

    The last paragraph you wrote really hit me hard. I have so many days that I feel worthless because I “just” stay at home with my three children, who are all under three, and our three dogs. I know my spouse often gets resentful that I am not contributing financially even though I am watching our kids, go to college part time, and drive him to and from work and school. I understand it from his angle, but it only adds to my guilt. When my older bro and I were babies, we used to go to a sitter while both my parents worked. Unknown to them at the time, my brother was treated like a prince by the elderly couple and I was ignored and spent the majority of my time in a playpen learning how to entertain myself. Eventually my parents came to find out that my brother had been being touched where he shouldn’t by the old man and found a new sitter for us. Nobody knows if it happened to me. Because of how this impacted both my life and my brother’s I made an unshakeable promise to myself and my children I would not leave them with anyone (except my mother and husband) till they were at the very LEAST able to talk to me and tell me if they needed help. It is hard, knowing that my husband is unable to really apreicate what I am actually giving up and how much work I actually do every day. I know in my heart that my intentions to raise my own children instead of letting a stranger will affect them for the rest of their lives. Hopefully for the better.

    • FishMama

      You are doing a great and worthy thing. Hang in there!

  38. charis

    this is great. i feel like i have learned a lot over the past 7.5 years and 4 little boys later. i have to have a shower everyday and actually get ready. i never feel like i am awake if i don’t. having routines is so important, like in any “job” one may have and i know for me having time with God is the only way this mommy stays a happy and fun-to-be-with mommy! i recently heard the saying, “the hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world!” i think that about sums it up.

  39. manish2010

    Hey Jessica!
    I really admire and appreciate your tips and your great experiences of your journey along motherhood road.When i saw your management skills then i found that Ohhhh God my time-table is really messed up,I’m just following this path without any rules,it’s being like 9 to 9 job for me without any breaks and relaxation.I think now i should have to make some changes,I’m really in a need of it.From now I’m gonna follow your all the tips.Thank you for sharing such a great great content with us.

  40. Jacqueline

    I am so glad I kept this in my inbox to read when I had time. I needed this email! I needed to remember dress for success! Thanks for the constant encouragement!

  41. Living the Balanced Life

    What an awesome post Tsh! What I love most is connecting with my children who are now young adults. Reaching out to them as little people with the understanding that one day they will be adults.

  42. Frenz Chant

    It is never easy to be a professional mom…yes, they are just staying at hoe but they have no day offs and no time outs…they are all around…

  43. Amber@Premier Marketing Tools

    Hi Jessica,
    I love your post! A great reminder to me that I am unique and irreplaceable in my children heart. Being a mom is the job that I would never ever get tired of. I love how they look up to me like I’m their boss. I love the 24 hours seven days a week schedule with them. And I just love love everything about my job as a mom. 🙂

  44. Victoria

    Thanks so much for your post! Some many moms I know, including myself, sometimes feel that their role as a mother is insignificant. Well it’s not, and it’s so refreshing to know that we are not alone when we feel these thoughts. By approaching motherhood as a God given occupation and finding fulfillment in His love and the love of our families makes it so rewarding!

  45. sandeep @ Free Animation tutorials

    i really love your post.i remind my chilhood memory when i play mom dad game wth friends…really i thankfull to you from my heart…for this post.

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